Rules & Bylaws Agenda

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So, what exactly will the much anticipated Rules & Bylaws Committee be discussing this Saturday in Washington? Some juicy tidbits from the schedule being circulated:

Florida has two challenges before the committee, one to reinstate its superdelegates as the state contends that the committee did not have the jurisdiction to remove those votes; and two, that the committee only had the power to remove 50% of Florida’s delegates, not 100%. While it’s true that the automatic sanctions were a 50% reduction, the staff analysis that the committee will consider Saturday shows it was within its rights as a committee to not only strip 100% of pledged delegates but to also strip superdelegates.

The money phrase in the staff recommendations: “The legally more defensible view seems to be that the RBC had authority, in its discretion, to impose the additional sanction that it did impose in August of 2007, but by the same token, that the RBC now has the discretion to revoke those additional sanctions, thereby leaving in effect the automatic sanction of Rule 20(c)(1), i.e., a 50% reduction in pledged delegates.” If I’m reading this correctly, this means that the committee might not have the jurisdiction to restore ALL of the delegates, but only 50% and, it seems, Florida is only petitioning to have 50% of its pledged delegates reinstated.

Michigan’s challenge is differently worded. It simply asks that the committee seat 100% of its delegation along the lines suggested by Michigan Senator Carl Levin: splitting the pledged delegates 69 for Hillary and 59 for Obama (less than the 73 Hillary would get if they actually allocated it by the 55% of the vote that she actually won). Again, the committee must first determine if it has the power to seat 100% of Michigan’s delegation. The staff recommendation:

To be sure, the Credentials Committee of the Convention is vested with broad authority, under the, to “determine and resolve questions concerning the seating of delegates and alternates to the Convention.” As the Party’s highest authority, the Convention itself, on the recommendation of the Credentials Committee, could arguably determine that the MDP should be provide all the delegate positions originally allocated to it, without regard to the sanctions imposed by the Delegate Selection Rules. By contrast, however, the RBC’s authority is limited to hearing challenges regarding alleged violations of an approved Delegate Selection Plan, Delegate Selection Rules 20(B)(2), and in resolving such challenges the RBC is limited to finding that actions taken in the delegate selection process comply or do not comply with the State Party’s delegate selection plan and to requiring corrective action to bring about compliance.7

For these reasons, it seems clear that while the RBC could revoke its additional sanctions, leaving in place the automatic sanctions of Rule 20(C)(1), it does not have authority to reverse or prevent the imposition of those automatic sanctions.

The staff then loops back to the Florida argument where the analysis weighed the pro and con positions for reinstating 100% of the delegates without coming to a conclusion. Assuming they overcome this hurdle the committee then must decide if it can use the results of Michigan’s January 15 primary since Obama was not even on the ticket and then if they have the power to arbitrarily reassign pledged delegates based on political will. All of which is to say, this is a giant mess and Saturday is going to be very complicated.